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How Mexican drug gangs use YouTube against rival groups

Mexican police uncovered a mass grave this week with aid of a YouTube video posted online by a drug gang. Rival gangs have turned to social media before to publicize the crimes of their enemies.

By Nacha CattanCorrespondent / November 5, 2010

Members of a forensic team and police watch as an excavator removes earth from a mass grave on the outskirts of Tijuana, on Oct. 4.

Reuters

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Mexico City

Mexican police worked Friday to identify the bodies of 18 corpses pulled from a mass grave outside Acapulco, after the grave's location was revealed in a video posted to YouTube by a drug gang.

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In the YouTube video, two men confess to killing a group of Mexican tourists kidnapped Sept. 30 in Acapulco. They called it a revenge attack against La Familia, a brutal Michoacan-based crime group. It is unclear who posted the video.

The confession was only the most recent video of people admitting to crimes, often after being tortured and threatened at gunpoint by rival gangs. Drug smugglers wishing to publicize the crimes of their enemies have circulated video confessions and used anonymous tip-offs to police, which have led in the past to arrests and gruesome discoveries like the mass grave.

Badly bruised and with hands tied behind their backs, the two men in the most recent video revealed the site of the grave in Tuncingo outside Acapulco to apparent gunmen off screen. Two men wearing the same clothes as those in the video were later found dead at the site where police discovered the 18 corpses. Police said an anonymous tip led them to Tuncingo on Wednesday, although the YouTube video also revealed the location.

Suspect tip-offs

While the discovery of the mass grave was a breakthrough in the unsolved mass murder case, using tip-offs from criminals also sets a dangerous precedent.

Jose Ramos, security expert at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, says such tips erode trust in the police, as people will always question whether a case was solved thanks to the help, or even complicity, of traffickers. “This is worrying,” says Mr. Ramos. “We are substituting the work that the state should do to identify alleged murderers and kidnappers.”

On Thursday, another man who appeared in a separate video confession was found murdered. In a video released shortly after Mario Angel Gonzalez Rodriguez was kidnapped in October, he says that his sister – Patricia Gonzalez, the former state prosecutor of Chihuahua – had worked for an offshoot of the Juarez Cartel. Ms. Gonzalez has denied the claim, saying her brother had spoken under duress. Police are reportedly investigating the allegations.

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